The Worthington 250 Interviews, Part Seven: Norm Stafford Finds His Place

Norm Stafford.

Note: This transcript is from a series of interviews conducted by Harold Anderson of Valley Eye Radio during Worthington’s 250th anniversary celebrations, which took place from June 29 to July 3, 2018. Valley Eye Radio, based in the Pioneer Valley, provides local news, interviews and other content to those with vision loss or other disabilities.

Harold Anderson: Norm, are you a lifelong resident or did you move here to Worthington?

Norm Stafford: We’ve only been here nine years, which in the annals of Worthington is not a very long time.

HA: Did you know about Worthington before you moved here, and what really interested you in this town?

NS: Well, that’s a good question, because one of the things that occurred to us when we were looking at a house that was listed in Worthington was, “Where the heck is Worthington, anyway?” We didn’t even know where it was. We moved from Amherst.

HA: And so how did you choose Worthington?

NS: The picture of the house in the ad that we saw was just the house that we wanted. It had always been our tradition to move every seven years, but we were not in a mood to move. But we said, “Well, we’ll go look at it.” And when we looked at it, we fell in love with it. It’s a very nice house on Old Post Road. It was owned by Dr. Modestow when he was the dentist in town.

Moving from Amherst to here, we’d picked a local company to help us move. My wife spent hours and days packing everything up. Then the group of young college kids came, put everything in the trucks, and moved it up here. It was a Friday afternoon and everybody’s exhausted. We finally get everything off the trucks and say, “What’s around here for restaurants?” And they all said, “Oh, Worthington, you don’t have anything – well, you could go to Liston’s. You’ll love Liston’s.” They all knew Liston’s very well. So we went down to Liston’s for dinner.

Liston’s in the late 1940s or 1950s.

We had never been there before, and they didn’t know us from Adam. But when we walked in the door, we see a lot of nice people sitting around having dinner, and it’s a very social atmosphere. And we’re welcomed to the restaurant by Steve Magargal, the owner, and he wants to know what’s going on. Where are we from? And we tell him our story, “We just moved into this house on Old Post Road.” And he said, “Oh, the Modestow house?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s the one.” And he said, “Ah, you’re gonna love that house.” Steve commenced to introduce us to a few people.

Back then Listons had bands in every Friday night. Steve took over the floor, and took the mic away from the band, and he said, “Hold on, I gotta introduce you to some new people in town.” And he introduced us to the whole crowd there at Liston’s. We just felt so welcome. My wife, to this day, remembers that. My son is 25 now, he remembers that day. That’s what Worthington is about – the openness, the wonderful people. And we’ve had the 250th parade today, and everybody was just as happy as could be, waving to everybody in the parade. It’s a great town, I love it.

Norm Stafford as Worthington pioneer Samuel Clapp (1725-1809), Benjamin Graveyard, 2018.

HA: So what do you like to do in town?

NS: I belong to the golf club, so I play in the men’s league. I have a little wine grape vineyard out in my backyard. I go out and pick the Japanese beetles off the leaves every once in a while. I take care of my lawns. I sit on my big porch and read books, and every once in a while, I write a little book. I’ve written a couple of little stories about Worthington history that I’ve treated as little novels, vignettes about events of Worthington.

We had a counterfeiter in Worthington back in the 1950s, so I had to write about him. That was George Humphrey. We’ve got a lot of history going back to when the potato farms were the biggest thing around here. Ben Albert was the biggest potato farmer on the East Coast, flying all over the place to take care of his various farms and operations that he owned and managed. Lots of stories about Civil War encampments down on River Road. The little story I wrote about the brothel on Harvey Road. They didn’t publish that one, but it was a fun story to research. [Editor’s note: The “brothel” refers to unconfirmed rumors of prostitution at a summer boarding house run by Bessie Ames on Harvey Road into the 1930s; the rumors do not implicate Ames.] We have all kinds of stories in Worthington.

HA: So what impresses you most about Worthington?

NS: I would say it’s just the nature of the people that choose to move here. We’ve got a lot of new people on my street, and they just love Worthington. Hopefully when we get high-speed internet we’ll have more young professionals that are willing to come and live here for the beauty of the town. We had a town meeting in May that was amazing. Everybody in town showed up. You don’t see that when you have a city council and people vote anonymously. At town meeting you stand up and say what you want to say and people listen to you.

My wife belongs to the Arts Alliance group, which is fabulous. You should have seen last weekend – they had 26 open studios on the tour, and every one of them was packed with people coming to see art in the Berkshires, and art in the hilltowns – all kinds of art. My wife is a watercolor painter and she just loves it up here, just for the collaboration with other painters.

Painting by Natalie Stafford for a card of the Corners Grocery.

Painting by Natalie Stafford for a card of the Corners Grocery in winter.

HA: So what do you think of the climate here?

NS: I love it. I mean, four feet of snow in the winter. I’ve got a big snow blower.

HA: So you’re a year-long resident?

NS: We live here year-round, yeah. My son doesn’t want us to ever think of selling the house, and we don’t think we ever will. We had that period in our lives where every seven years we’d sell and move someplace else. Not anymore. This is probably it.

HA: You found your place.

NS: Yeah. This is it.

Norm Stafford with his grape vines.

Posted September 10, 2020. The interview transcription was funded by a grant from the Worthington Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

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